Coca Cola CFUL-The Orlando Times
Seven Area High School Students Receive Free Computers
BY DR. BARBARA J. MCLEAN-SMITH
ORLANDO - Coke Florida in support of the Central Florida Urban League presented seven local high school seniors with personal laptops as they prepare to graduate and to attend college. Friday, February 26, 2021 was a dream come true for students’ whose lives have been affected by many challenges. Several of them who have known what it means to live in extreme poverty were overly excited to become recipients of much needed support.
Both Coca Cola Beverages Florida referred to as “Coke Florida” and Central Florida Urban League (CFUL) promote education and encouragement to students and their families. Their goals are to level the playing field for area students who are economically disadvantaged. The president and CEO of The Central Florida Urban League, Glenton (Glen) Gilzean, Jr. is, and has been, an advocate for disadvantaged youth and families.
Paula Stanberry, Program Manager, coordinated this exhilarating event which was featured via ZOOM and held at the downtown office of CFUL. The program featured an introduction of COKE Florida and a welcome to all attendees by Derek Fredrickson, who is the Territory General Manager. Mr. Fredrickson stated that “their business is located on Mercy Drive, Orlando and before the Pandemic, tonight’s event would have been held at their location.” Travis Warren, Senior Manager, Public Affairs and Community Relations of Coke Florida, further explained that the company is a Black-owned bottling company and serves the entire state of Florida that ranges from Jacksonville to the Florida Keys. Coke Florida realizing that there is a “Technology Gap” wanted to provide Chromebooks to the selected students to help alleviate that gap. Realizing that many of Orlando’s students do not own either laptops or computers, the company found it essential to bridge the gap for seven high schoolers slated to graduate this spring.
The highly recommended and selected students were introduced virtually with the exception of Angelica Stewart and Zion Baptiste who were onsite at CFUL. Angelica was selected to accept the laptops on behalf of all of the students. The seven student recipients are as follows: Angelica Stewart, Maynard Evans High School accepted and plans to matriculate at Howard University; Brianna Gay, Oak Ridge High School; Elijah Burton, West Orange High School, to attend Valencia College Bridge to University of Central Florida (UCF); Zion Baptiste, Chancery High School and Jump Start, an online program, Valencia College Bridge to UCF; Brookanne Dent, Crooms Academy, University of Central Florida; Alexander (Alex) Raymonvil, Maynard Evans High School, Valencia College Bridge to UCF; and Akhia Ashanti Bryant, Oak Ridge High School, Valencia College Bridge to UCF.
Mr. Janeiro R. Coulter, Division Manager with the City of Orlando’s Minority or Women-Owned Enterprise System (M/WBE) was the keynote speaker who gave the students a charge and left them with five takeaways to help them in college and in life. “(1) To remember that Social Media is a lifetime event; whatever is posted is there for life. (2) To make up your beds daily in order to begin each day with a feeling of accomplishment; (3) Don’t take offense - Never make up something that makes you feel bad; if you make something up, make it something that will make you feel good; (4) Never take advice from anyone who doesn’t have any more than you; if they are in the same place as you, they probably cannot help you, take your own advice; (5) and to start journaling; write down things that make you feel good about yourself. Journal only positive things.”
Mr. Coulter will personally provide leather bound journals to all of the graduates.
Angelica Stewart gave the “acceptance response”, she is quite a young woman with knowledge and wisdom beyond her years. She applied to 14 colleges and universities and has been accepted to all of them. She actually received an acceptance email to the University of Florida (UF) while we were talking before the Zoom event began; everyone in the room was ecstatic. Angelica’s, Evans high school mentor and the Community Partnership Director, Ms. Alexandria Turnley, selected Angelica Stewart and Alexander Raymonvil to become recipients of the laptops. Both students have honorable Grade Point Averages (GPA) and participate in several extra curricula activities leaving them with a need of a laptop. Ms. Turnley’s commitment to her students was evidenced as she accompanied Angelica downtown to CFUL. In speaking with Ms. Stewart, age 18, I soon realized, she will be an asset to any university she chooses to attend and in whatever career she decides to pursue. Currently Ms. Stewart is the Senior Class President after only being at Evans for the past three years. Angelica, her mother and little sister moved to Orlando in 2018 from Portmore, Jamaica. She attended the Wolmers Trust High School for Girls in Kingston, Jamaica. Angelica says that “she knows what it is to struggle; that being poor is no stranger to her; her mother, a single parent is raising her and her younger sister. Due to many hardships, she says “I am determined to become financially stable”. Angelica is currently the Historian with The National Technical Honor Society. Her plan is to major in Computer Sciences. She says that “We are not only in a COVID Pandemic but a mental health pandemic.” Computer Sciences will allow her opportunities where she can integrate technology with mental health practices. Ms. Stewart is also vice president of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Council which is designed “to help underachieving students with high academic potential prepare for entrance to colleges and universities”. Angelica’s goal is “to support students and to encourage them not to focus on how unfortunate they are but to see that they are in a ‘mental cage’ where they can’t see what is achievable”. She works tirelessly with the College Career Readiness Center (CCRC) to assist students in the development of a career plan while at school. “I know that the struggle is real whenever students have very little but I also believe that something can come out of nothing, if the right seeds are planted. I like to establish relationships with others to plant seeds and to motivate all students…even though I may not get a chance to water the plants, at least the seeds will have been planted.” Angelica participates in Orange County Public Schools’ Character Lab Internship Program (CLIP), a virtual program where research in psychology delves into scientific insight “to advance students who may underachieve and to help them thrive. Angelica Stewart attends New Heights Ministries here in Orlando under Pastor Joel L. Polk.
Angelica believes that her faith propels her; and says with conviction “I know that God will not give me more than I can handle…I have an understanding of purpose through my faith and devotion to God."